Dear Honorable Members of Congress,
I would regret not writing this letter. So with that humbling thought, I beg your indulgence for a brief but timely letter.
As a native Kentucky born US citizen who moved to Israel with my family five years ago, I have felt caught in torrential crosswinds these past few weeks. It appears to be the fourth quarter of the Western world’s negotiations with the Ayatollahs in Iran. The clock is ticking and time is not on the side of a nuclear-free Iran.
To this already tense real world drama, an unfortunate sub-plot has emerged. Somehow the issue of whether it is appropriate for the Prime Minister of Israel to address a joint session of Congress tomorrow on the threats posed by a nuclear Iran and the implications of the current deal under negotiation, has taken center stage. The SPEECH, as it is being referred to in Israel, and the speculation of whether some members of Congress will not attend has dominated conversations from Washington to Jerusalem.
There have been and will be many sophisticated and nuanced articles written about this subject, debating the merits of the speech, the timing of it, the proximity to Israel’s elections, etc. These are great topics for op-eds and the talk shows.
Indeed reasonable people can agree that the circumstances surrounding the invitation, the poor communications between governments, the political maneuverings and certainly the timing of the SPEECH raise serious questions. And as close and strategic allies, the United States and Israel should responsibly conduct an analysis and a reckoning as to how such an important and common cause became so utterly confounded.
However, the politicization of this SPEECH is tragically eclipsing the far more critical issue of Iran’s advancements in enriching uranium, its resulting shift in the regional balance of power and the certain dangers of enabling the regime’s stated nuclear ambitions as the world’s largest sponsor of global terrorism.
As a citizen of the State of Israel whose country is explicitly threatened for extermination by the extremist Iranian theocracy, I do not have the luxury of second guessing these threats. The upside of being the most persecuted nation in the history of mankind has taught the Jewish people that when someone threatens you with extinction, pay heed to their threats.
Our history is soaked with the blood of millions of doubters; those victims or appeasers whose sensibilities or culture prevented them from taking a murderer at his word. I grew up with the haunting echos of “NEVER AGAIN”, surrounded by pictures of murdered relatives; great grandparents, great uncles and aunts who were brutally slaughtered among 6 million of my people in the Holocaust.
Out of the ashes of the Holocaust, the Jewish State of Israel was established after a millennia of praying for a return to Zion. And the United States was among the first countries to recognize this fledgling state. Since then, deep bonds between the US and Israel and a mutual strategic alliance rooted in the shared values of freedom, democracy, civil rights and liberty have flourished.
After only 66 years and with much support from the US, Israel has achieved much but still has so much more to accomplish and share with the world. Today, we are a small nation of just over a symbolic 6 million Jews in Israel as we work diligently to build an oasis of democracy in a hostile neighborhood. At times we appear brazen because one needs that to survive in this neck of the woods. But there is tremendous humility here, especially as we face looming existential threats.
This weighs heavily on my conscience. I have tried to live my life without regret. While it was difficult to leave my native America and the land that I love five years ago, I am proud to now live in a free and sovereign Jewish state. I am a regular guy. A father of three young kids, 5 year old boy and girl twins and a three year old son. Working hard to run a small business, employing 110 people, while trying to improve society in some small measure through community and non-profit organizations. I schedule to play basketball once a week but often end up exhausted. I have made my share of mistakes but they have generally been errors of commission rather than errors of omission.
I am not sure what the Prime Minister is going to say. But I do know that a lot is on the line. Not just for me and my children and our country but for the world.
As Iran marches inexorably towards procuring the necessary elements to possess a nuclear military capability, we have been told to hope for a proper outcome and a good negotiated settlement. But as noted strategist Jon Czepiel said, “hope is not a strategy.”
Timing in life is everything. Much is being said about the timing and parallels to ancient Persia, where over two thousand years ago, the Jewish people were threatened with genocide and extermination by the morbidly anti-Semitic Haman, a senior viceroy to Persian King Xerxes. That period is recorded in the scroll of Esther and is commemorated by Jews the world over in a holiday called Purim, which we will celebrate ironically in just two days.
If there is a time to raise a call about the dangers or perils of a negotiated settlement with Iran, the modern day Persia, now is the time to do so. If there is new or relevant intelligence information to share, now is the time to do so. And even if it is a simple and final plea from the Prime Minister of one America’s closest allies (whose country is being singularly threatened) to make directly to the most powerful leaders on earth, now is the time to do so.
Regardless of the politics, please hear my simple plea.
As the defenders of democracy and the guardians of liberty, please do not allow a modern day Hitler or Haman to acquire weapons of mass destruction when he unabashedly promises to use them.
As champions of free speech the world over, can there be harm in listening to a speech? Please forgive our Prime Minister for his brazenness for he sees the gun that is vividly pointed at our heads and feels the weight of Jewish history and Jewish continuity on his shoulders.
As you stand resolute with allies and friends during moments of crisis, please do not allow the protocol of procedural disputes and form over substance to prevent you from preserving your moral integrity and global leadership.
As the representatives of the greatest nation on earth, will you regret not having at least taken the time to listen to one of your closest allies?
If the doomsday scenarios prove accurate and my family and Israel are destroyed, how will history judge this moment? And judge those who chose to dismiss the real and decisive threats?
If for some reason, you are unsure of whether to attend this speech, please imagine explaining to the few remaining Holocaust survivors, whose memories are seared with images of death camps and whose arms are tattooed with numbers, how you were unable to believe the depths of man’s depravity.
For those of us on the front lines in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is our democratically elected leader and is indeed our spokesman. Whether he will continue to be after the upcoming elections or not, is irrelevant. Following the elections, someone will also have the same intelligence data and will need to make this case heard loudly before it is too late.
While I am not privy to the intelligence data, I am privy to the loudly declared Iranian threats to kill me, my children and my people. And I am also keenly aware that more than mere threats, the Iranian leadership is actively working to build this destructive capacity. For me, that is simple math.
When history writes the next chapter in Jewish history and records the next scroll of Esther, will you be listed as present?